Raleigh, N.C. — While their sign has been up for months, Gringo a Go Go has only recently opened its doors to the public. With a small menu, the Out and About team were able to try almost the entire thing in two trips. This is the latest venture from Ben Shelton, the chef behind Lilly's Pizza in Five Points.
Location: This relatively small restaurant is in the former home of Ruben's across from Oakwood Cafe on Person Street in downtown Raleigh. Only a few parking spaces are available around the restaurant and additional parking can be found along nearby streets.
The Restaurant: A mannequin wearing a mustache, sombrero and Gringo T-shirt sits at a table for two. It is impossible to miss it. Only slightly creepy. The rest of the restaurant is adorned with kitschy decor. There aren't many seats so if you come with a big party either go before or after lunchtime rush. Or you could just sit with the mannequin.
The menu: This taqueria offers burritos, tacos and a collection of salsa. You can get house-made guacamole and chips or two choices of salsa and chips for $5. The guac was good, but you really don't get too much of it. The bowl is medium sized and you get a small-sized portion so it looks like the bowl is nearly empty when you get it. Same is true for the salsa, which you can get single orders for $1.50.
We tried five of the seven salsas on the menu. We really liked the Orange salsa, which has a nice kick to it for being the mildest one offered. "The orange has a tangy, sweet flavor that is unlike any salsa I have had," Tara said. We also recommend the Pico de Gallo for mild fans. The Sesame salsa just tasted like sesame sauce. The Chipotle has a great spicy blend, but the real spicy fans needs to get the Habanero, which builds in heat.
We think the key with the salsa and guac is just getting smaller bowls or filling them just a little more. The tortilla chips are also thicker than you typically get at a Mexican restaurant, so they can hold a hearty salsa.
Tacos ($3 each) and burritos ($8) have the same filling options including pork, sausage, chicken, potato and vegan beef and chicken. You will need to ask your server for descriptions on each filling because they are simply listed by their Spanish names.
Also on tap are several local beers and a collection of bottled Mexican sodas.
Here is a rundown of the dishes we tried:
Kathy: I tried the al pastor and pollo tacos on the first trip and a chorizo burrito on the second trip. For me, the al pastor (pork with pineapple) was the better of the two tacos but still tasted dried out. I found the pollo (chicken) to be tough. My saving grace on the first trip was that orange salsa, which I used to top everything. Our second trip was much more tasty. My chorizo (ground and seasoned sausage) burrito was much better. Filled with black beans, cheese, tomatoes and (way too many) onions, this was the meal I was expecting to get the first time we went there. Still, the chorizo was much spicier than I expected so I tamed the beast with a green cucumber salsa they brought to the table. A great balance.
Tara: My first trip to Gringo a Go Go, I decided to give the tacos a try. I had the asada and pollo tacos. The tacos come with cilantro and onions but no other toppings. I am used to loading down my taco with tons of toppings so to me the tacos seemed a little dry and plain. On the menu, it does not list that you can get toppings but as we were leaving I saw a lot of people with side plates that had lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, etc. so if I go again for tacos I will be sure to ask about the topping options.
On my second visit I tried the al pastor burrito. The burrito is big and comes jammed packed with all the fixings. I like that the al pastor comes with a sweet sauce and pineapples on it but to me the meat tasted a little chewy. The burrito has a spicy kick, which I love, but if you are not a fan they bring you sauces to cool it down.
Caitlin: I also tried the carnitas burrito, which came with black beans, rice, onions and tomato. It had a bit of a spicy kick to it, so to tame the heat I would recommend the cucumber salsa that we tried - strangely, it worked for me. If you say "bring on the heat," the habanero salsa is your best bet. The burrito was filling and tasty, and I preferred it over the tacos. My only complaint would be that I encountered pockets of ingredients clustered together in the burrito, like a chunk of onion strands in the middle. With a fork and knife it was easy enough to mix up the ingredients, but if I was eating it with my hands, that would have been a big mouthful of onion and nothing else.
The Service: Our server was the same on both visits. She explained the menu items when asked but didn't offer much other information. We had no idea that we could get toppings for our tacos until we saw another person with a plate of topping at his table. Would have been nice to know that the first trip.
The Bill: Everything was pretty reasonably priced.
The Verdict: We wouldn't go back for the tacos, but the burritos definitely got our attention. We would love to see them focus on a few salsas and offering slightly larger portions. For fans of burritos and spice, this is a good lunch pick.